Training Log November 23

Today’s mental discipline is brought to you by the squat. It is all about the habits and patterns.

Death grip on the barbell
Brace the upper back
Step under the barbell
Left step back
Right step back
Big breath
Brace the spine
Smooth drop
Explode up
Press the traps back into the barbell
Lock out

Seems like a lot, right? All together, it takes 10-15 seconds, maybe less. And this is why making it all a habit, every step, is critical to the success of each lift. There is not much time to correct an error once you get started. And an error can result in a failed lift.

The more automatic you can make these steps in your mind, the more likely you will be to succeed. The steps become automatic when you start slowly, do them often, and focus on the goal.

This applies to whatever you do in life. Are you paying attention to the steps that you do automatically that take you to failure? Identify those, and you can adjust, and move toward the goals that you want. It starts with the small things.


Training Log November 20


I was definitely feeling the effects of calorie reduction today (and yesterday, I suppose). I had hoped to do three sets of push press at 195, but I set up for the second set and felt like a boiled rice noodle. So I finished out the day with the high pulls to make sure all the shoulder complex muscles were equally boiled.

I am pretty happy with my progress on this eternal, infernal cut. I’m still getting stronger, and I’m still seeing the fat come off. If the gym scale is to be believed, I may have dropped below 290. And judging by the inches I’ve lost, I am certain I am going the right direction.

I am also really ready for a couple of rest days. My nutrition stays very balanced over the weekend, and the reduced activity provides the recovery necessary for smashing the training on Monday. Enjoy your weekend!

An Exercise in Discipline on Deadlift Day

I usually get really excited for deadlift day. It is by far my favorite lift. However, I just couldn’t generate the excitement. In fact, my frame of mind was more along the lines of “dreadlift” or “deathlift”. I just wasn’t feeling it.

But if I have learned anything since being diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis, it is that I can usually ignore my feelings and whatever nonsense that my body is telling me. My body and brain are usually ganging up on me and trying to convince me that I should go take a nap, eat a pizza, and top it all off with a pint or two of Ben and Jerry’s Chubby Hubby.

…which is exactly what I’ll be if I listen to my body.

So I chose discipline today. Discipline is consciously choosing to do what you need to do instead of what you want to do. Do it often enough, and what you need to do will become what you want to do.

My usual 500m row felt okay; the front squats following that felt stupid heavy; the deadlifts after that felt sorta meh. But I pushed on. And like usual, I found my groove and did some work. By the third set, I knew I could make a useful day out of my training.

I have never regretted making an attempt at doing some good training. Not all of those attempts resulted in good training sessions, but I never regretted trying. And most of the time, I really surprise myself. Today wasn’t fabulous, but it was good. The kind of good that will result in progress.

And that is the point. Discipline is deliberate.


New Year Resolutions

Yes, it is mid-November. And that is exactly why you need to think about your goals now. If you want to have any chance of accomplishing your goals, you need to start now. The new year and new you starts now. January 1 is only relevant in that it is just another day in which you should be practicing your habits and just another day that gets you closer to your goals.

You know that the vast majority of resolutions are abandoned after just a couple weeks of half hearted effort, right? And they are abandoned after 100% effort, too. Why do you suppose that is?

It’s brain science. Typically, people make a list. First mistake. When you choose several things to accomplish in the new year, you literally break the decision bank of your brain – the prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for focus, short term memory, and abstract problem solving. Essentially, where your willpower lives. It’s a busy place. When you create a list of goals for the year, you are doing the equivalent of trying to break the world record deadlift when you’ve never touched a barbell.

Part of the problem is in how people frame their resolution. They say  they will ‘lose weight’. Or ‘get healthy’. Or ‘eat better’. Or ‘make the world a better place’. What do those mean? How are they accomplished? Where do you start? Where do you end? Will you pick the right methods? Will you have the time to do these things? And these are just a few of the questions that will plague your mind. For each resolution.

  • Lose weight needs to become Replace the daily doughnut (or three) with fruit and a protein source, like eggs.
  • Get healthy needs to become Replace 15 minutes of couch time with a 15 minute walk.
  • Make the world a better place needs to become Volunteer once a week at the local homeless shelter.

See how the general (abstract) becomes specific, measurable, and attainable?

Now, one more critical point – pick ONE! Start with one goal, one resolution. I suggest picking one that focuses on yourself, because when you take care of yourself, you are more able to take care of others. It may take about 3-4 weeks (maybe sooner!) for that habit to form. When it becomes automatic, when you no longer have to struggle to choose to grab the fruit and eggs, then move on to another resolution.

If you were to choose to change something about your eating habits now, and then your exercise habits in a few weeks, you’d be perfectly positioned to set a goal of learning powerlifting, or getting your first pull up as 2016 rolls around. You will already have established some good habits that will help you travel further along your fitness journey.

If your goal is something else like becoming a master photographer, you have to start with other simple steps. Like learning what aperture, DOF, exposure, and composition are. All those things can be learned for free and only take a few moments. Learn one thing a day. As your knowledge builds, you can practice what you have learned.

Write your goal down. Then learn what you need to do for an initial habit change. Then build on that habit. Success is a collection of tiny habits built on one another.

Next time, we will learn about discipline.


Training Log November 17

Since I am a bit of a rebel, I train bench press on Tuesday, rather than Monday (International Bench Press Day).


I am currently focused on building shoulder strength since that has been an area where I frequently deal with pain. All weight work is preceded by warming up and mobility drills to facilitate optimal movement.

Additionally, I am trying to build back strength and mass, so you’ll see many variations of rows and other pulling movements throughout the week.

Postural habits have created internal rotation in my shoulders, so that is the reason for doing so much pulling and shoulder work. I can always work on the posture, too, and am. It is a constant mental exercise to do so.

But that is true of all of this, right? Daily, sometimes hourly, choices to do the right thing for my body…and for my mind. As many of you know, I fight against ankylosing spondylitis, so movement and health are critical to functioning every day. And that health starts with my choices.

Squats on the Brain


The other day, my girlfriend asked me what is the one thing I couldn’t do without when it came to my interests, activities, and hobbies. Without hesitation, I said “Training.”

And so I will begin posting again about my journey with the barbell, and why it means so much to me. These posts will have a focus on the mental aspects as well as the physical, since a simple rundown of the workout isn’t likely to interest or help you.

The squats today were relatively light, but the reps were higher than what I am used to doing. In the powerlifting world, anything over 5 reps is looked at as cardio. But it certainly has a place in training, even when strength is the primary goal. And as you can see, the rowing is a nice bit of cardio as well.

I am recently returned to powerlifting after dealing with some nagging injuries and joint pain. In the last couple months of training, I regained a good bit of my previous strength levels while perfecting my technique. The temptation is always to keep pushing that one rep max, but I knew I needed to step back this week and give my body the chance to fully recover. Or maybe I just don’t feel like revisiting the old injury issues again. I’m older and supposedly wiser now. I should lift like I have learned from the past.

At any rate, this is pretty much what my current training sessions look like, and I will detail why in the near future.

On Reaching 40

At twenty years of age, the will reigns; at thirty, the wit; and at forty, the judgment. – Ben Franklin

Forty. Momentous, I suppose. Some see it as the end of youth, vitality, hope, etc. Some see it as a chance to correct all the errors of youth. Neither seem very useful.

I am fully aware of what I have failed to do, what I have done poorly, and what I have done well. The words of Socrates, “Know thyself.” and Marcus Aurelius, “Examine thyself.” are especially useful when contemplating the past, the future, and that brief moment that is always with us…now.

Knowing and recognizing who you are is a major step in determining the path of your life. (It is up to you, after all. No one else cares that much to run your life, and if they do, run.) If you don’t know what you want out of life, it is time to explore. And there is no time like the present to do that. Is there something you’ve always wanted to try, learn, experience? What has stopped you? Identify the interests, and identify the obstacles. You’ll probably figure out what to do with that information.

How often do you find yourself waffling on a decision because you give too much weight to the thoughts or expectations of others? That fear of what others think is really nothing more than your own fear of failure. So embrace the possibility of failure. Why? Because it rarely brings the world to an end. You might even learn something. If you treat life, each day, each interaction, as an experiment, you will have a far richer life. When you predetermine in your mind how everything will go, you shut down the joy of options. And the worst way we do this is by embracing the illusion that other people will disapprove. Live your life, and live it nobly.

Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, then they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by. If there are gods, but unjust, then you should not want to worship them. If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones. – Marcus Aurelius

I won’t be spending the next forty years trying to undo what was done in the first forty years of my life. Are there regrets? Of course. But there are also lessons. I believe the wise move is utilize my judgment (honed over the last four decades) to help me avoid repeating those mistakes, or similar ones in disguise.

I think some guys are pretty settled into their lives at this point. And part of me wishes that I were a bit more settled. But that would also mean the end of adventure. I don’t ever want to settle. Not even with an amazing woman at my side. I am grateful she understands this about me, and knows that I must always explore and grow and change and learn and create and adapt and wander and get lost and be found and try and fail and succeed.

I think I am learning what I need to hang onto and what to let go. And when I really think about this, I realize there is very little that I need to hang onto. The important things are my principles, my relationships, and my dreams. And those can all be developed after 40.